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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has been a
milestone in global and national disability development efforts. The UNCRPD looks at what can
be done to make sure that persons with disabilities (PWDs) can have access to the same rights as
everybody else. In addition, the convention also identifies areas where the interests of PWDs can
be protected.
Singapore signed and officially ratified the UNCRPD on 18 August 2013. They joined an
international community of 132 other countries that have committed themselves to ensuring that
PWDs are treated equally with dignity and respect. Under the countrys national development
framework, called the Enabling Master Plan 2012-2014, Singapore seeks to establish an
inclusive society, one that encompasses disability, via collaboration between the public and
private stakeholders.
Although Singapore has officially become a signatory of the UNCRPD, the road towards
promoting greater inclusion of PWDs into the society may still be far off. The main problem that
Singapore faces is their inability to identify the current numbers of PWDs in the country. In
Singapore, the number of PWDs are measured based on those who have registered to use public
disability services. And this number is roughly around 97, 200 people.
According to the United Nations, it is estimated that anywhere between 10 to 15 per cent of a
countrys population are disabled. This means that of the 5.4 million people currently living in
Singapore, it is estimated that there are anywhere between 540, 000 to 810,000 people living
with some form of disability in the country. If the actual situation is as such, then the current
number of registered PWDs in Singapore is barely 1.5 per cent of the true numbers.
This case study takes a look at Singapore and the issue it faces in correctly identifying the
current number of disabled people living within the country. The discrepancy between actual and
current numbers is an issue that Singapore ought to tackle as their first few steps towards their
commitment towards the UNCRPD. One of the fundamental problems behind this issue is that
there is a lack of a proper registration service for PWDs in the country.
Before 1987 Singapore had the Central Registry of Disabled Persons which kept track of the
number of PWDs irrespective of whether they used public disability services. However, the
Singapore government closed the Central Registry in 1987 as other governmental agencies were
serving the same purpose and this caused inefficient repetition of work. And as a result, the only
method for the government to measure the disability prevalence rate now depended on those who
registered to use public disability services.

In order to ensure that Singapores laws, policies, and practices are aligned with the UNCRPD,
reliable statistics are required in order to ascertain needs and concerns, with such data
disaggregated in terms of gender and form of disability. This lack of data is troubling as the
proportion of people with disabilities is increasing with the ageing of the population.
In the policy brief following this case study, it is highly suggested that the Singaporean
government resume its operations of the Central Registry of Disabled Persons in order to
establish a reliable and valid information data bank. By addressing this issue, the exact numbers
of people living with disabilities in the country can be known. Further, it will enable the
Singapore government to implement relevant and effective policies that will help this group.
This paper is thus organized as follows: 1) brief background of Singapore and the UNCRPD,
2) Singapores Enabling Masterplan and Disability, 3) how Singapore will implement these
strategies, 4) the current and potential problems Singapore faces, 5) a cross-country case study,
and 6) policy brief for action.

A Cross Country Analysis

Malaysias voluntary-based registration system is similar in nature to Singapores utilization of
public disability services registration system. The similarity lies in the non-compulsory method
that both countries have chosen to adopt in registering their population of PWDs.
In Malaysia, PWDs are not obligated to register with the Social Welfare Department under the
Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. This voluntary-based system
coupled with the lack of awareness amongst most Malaysians is commonly cited to be the reason
behind the poor participatory number of registrants. The lack of accurate data on the prevalence
of data is also an issue in Malaysia.
Using the same logic based on the UN estimate of the number of PWDs, the predicted total
number of disable should be between 3 to 4.5 million people. However, of the 30 million
Malaysians, only 445, 006 people are registered as of 2012. In Malaysia, the discrepancy
between the current registered number and the estimated number is particularly large; the
difference using the UN estimate implies that an additional 2.5 million people are living with
some form of disability in Malaysia.
In Malaysias case, the issues of poor registration numbers are due to several reasons. Firstly,
there is a lack of awareness by PWDs in the country regarding the registration process. There
tends to be a lack of awareness on the efforts by the government to promote the issue of
disability in the country. Hence, some PWDs are unaware that there is, 1) a registration system
for PWDs that they can apply to in order to obtain a Kad OKU (disabled persons identity card)
and 2) that this Kad OKU comes along with special privileges that are subsidized by the
government. The government should invest more resources in promoting the benefits of the card
and indirectly this will lead to improved information of the actual numbers of PWDs in the
And for the population of PWDs that are aware of the registration and card benefits, the social
stigma that comes with being a PWD tends to reduce their incentive of obtaining a card and
registering with the government. Although in Malaysia there are laws that promote the fair
opportunity to work for all, including PWDs, there is a negative social stereotype associated with
being disabled. PWDs in the country prefer to not be recognized as disabled as it reduces their
chances at a normal life in the societys eyes.
Part of the reason for the negative social stigma is due to Malaysias welfare approach in tackling
disability. As a country that has recently ratified the UNCRPD, Malaysia is transitioning from
the welfare-based approach to the human rights-based approach promoted by the convention.

However, the initial welfare approach adopted by the Malaysian government has greatly
hindered their disability development attempts as it has also indirectly altered the way in which
the society views the issue. Changing this perception could be one of the steps that Malaysia can
take in order to improve the lives of its disabled. Perhaps stronger enforcement and greater
awareness on the issue of disability could lead to an improved situation in the case of Malaysia.

Thailand is referred to be a

To be continued tomorrow. Along with my slides.